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Sunday, December 13, 2009
Ergonomics Micro to Macro Success Stories

Ergonomics: Micro to Macro Success StoriesThe OSHA ergonomics standard was rescinded several years ago, yet many companies continue to establish and/or expand ergonomics programs in their workplaces. Why is that? The reason is that effective ergonomics programs save companies money!

Ergonomic risk factors in the workplace continue to plague many employers. In Pennsylvania in 2004, sprains and strains represented 43.1 percent of the claims by nature of injury. The number one cause of accidents or exposure was overexertion, accounting for 31.5 percent of cases. The mismatch between the physical demands in the workplace and the physical capabilities of workers results not only in excessive workers' compensation costs but also in losses from decreased productivity, reduced work quality, increased turnover and diminished worker satisfaction. Also, while there is no specific standard, OSHA does cite under the General Duty Clause, 5(a)(1).

Ergonomics: Micro to Macro Success StoriesThere are many examples of success stories. The OSHA Web site contains over 40 examples of successful ergonomics programs from a wide variety of employers. In some of these case studies, several different exposures where ergonomic risk was found and reduced are detailed.

For example, L.L.Bean implemented an ergonomics program that included the development of an ergonomics design team. This resulted in a 79 percent reduction in work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) cases during the first year following implementation. The company has sustained this level of success since then.

Ergonomics: Micro to Macro Success Stories1Source Safety and Health, Inc. has helped many clients to achieve similar results. The approaches that may be taken range from the very simple, single issue to the more complex and holistic. When addressing single issues, the term microergonomics is often used. When addressing ergonomics more holistically, the term macroergonomics is used. The definition is as follows: Macroergonomics – A top-down sociotechnical systems approach to the design of work systems and the application of the overall work system design to the design of the human-job, human-machine, and human-software interfaces. The macroergonomics design process is often iterative (design, evaluate, refine, re-evaluate, further refine, etc.), nonlinear (does not proceed in a simple sequential manner) and stochastic (requires making inferences or decisions based on incomplete data).

The definition of macroergonomics can be summarized as designing ergonomics into the job/work process. How important is this to some companies? This quote is from one of the more profitable and professional American companies:

“Global ergonomics is core business at GE.” (May 2005)

Whether you would like help addressing single issues or developing a more holistic approach to the management of ergonomic risk, we can help you. For questions or assistance, please contact Colin J. Brigham, CPE (Certified Professional Ergonomist) at 610.524.5525, ext. 24 or email.